Feeding Southwest Virginia celebrates 40 years of service

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, Feeding America CEO

by Shawn Nowlin

Southwest Virginia (FSWVA) celebrated 40 years of service September 10, Feeding with a celebratory luncheon. Present at the gathering was Governor Ralph Northam, FSWVA CEO Pam Irvine, Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot. Also attending were various political representatives, longtime volunteers, staff personnel and donors.

Praising Irvine and all of the organization’s supporters, Gov. Northam said, “Pam has been with this organization for 40 years. When you think about that many years of service, and certainly there are a lot of other individuals who have been part of this process, but you have touched a whole lot of lives.”

Far too many families face food insecurity, the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Data shows that one in eight Southwest Virginia residents regularly face hunger, including one in five children.

Pam Irvine, FSWVA CEO

The Roanoke Valley is part of Feeding Southwest Virginia’s 26-county, nine-city service region. In addition to being a $34 million food distribution business on a nonprofit budget, FSWVA is also a first responder in disaster situations. Its partner programs include soup kitchens, food pantries as well as elderly and children’s initiatives.

The Mobile Food Pantry visits 12 distribution sites each month.

Millions of people, according to Babineaux-Fontenot, received help from food banks and pantries last year. Like the vast majority of Americans, she believes that no child should have to go to bed hungry.

“I have a very big family and when I’m giving speeches like this, I often ask people to guess how many. When people find out that I’m Catholic, they think maybe 20. But it’s much bigger than that. Through birth, adoption and foster care, I am one of 108 children,” she said.

“The greatest honor that I will ever have was providing the keynote address when my parents were inducted into the National Adoption Hall of Fame. The woman I am today is direct result of their compassion, love and thoughtfulness. I carry on those traits in my capacity as Feeding America CEO every single day.”

Last Friday’s luncheon celebration was sponsored by the Kroger Zero Hunger/Zero Waste campaign and Member One Federal Credit Union. At the conclusion of the program, attendees were given a tour of the warehouse.

September is National Hunger Action Month. Looking for a way to make a difference in the community? FSWVA is always looking for volunteers, people willing to share their message via social media and food donations.

The Feeding America Southwest Virginia Food Bank was founded in 1981 to reduce hunger in a region where the economic landscape had been altered by plant and mine closings, a slow influx of new jobs and constrained job re-retraining opportunities.

More information can be found by visiting feedingswva.org.